Who is this bizarre creature? Ft. The Caecilian.

  • La Bonita Caecilian (Caecilia orientalis)

This bizarre creature was observed in the eastern slopes of the Andes in Ecuador, while staying at Wild Sumaco Wildlife Sanctuary (highly recommend). Our fantastic guide Byron had led us through a great morning already helping us view some fantastic birds (such as Crested Quetzal and White-crowned Tapaculo), but had lost his pointer (used to find spot birds in the thick jungle foliage). So Bryon told us to stay put as he went back to find his pointer. After five or ten minutes of stationary birding this wormy like creature came slithering out of the bush. WAH! Who are you?! We tried desperately to take photos as it squirmed through the mud, a tricky task as our pictures weren’t too fab as you can see.

Quite tricky to get a still shot as this dude moved!

Short video of it crossing the path: https://photos.app.goo.gl/hfT2gWMbfUQhaL8A9

The La Bonita Caecilian is a limbless, aquatic, essentially eyeless amphibian. In January 2007 it was assessed under the IUCN Red List as Least Concern. Population data along with many other data categories remain generally unknown. What we do know is that it inhabits forests, inland wetlands and  freshwaters. Moisture is key. This caecilian lays eggs in the ground and continues to guard the eggs, a behavior I wouldn’t have expected. Caecilians in general will vary in egg laying, some doing so in the ground, others directly into freshwater, and even have live births, what a variety!

This jungle holds many secrets, many mysteries, so many question remain!

Barred Hawk’s also love to eat and feed the La Bonita Caecilian to its young. Alongside this hawk,  turtles, snakes, and even ants predate upon these amphibians (Greeney et al. 2008). Interestingly, Greenly et al. discovered that the hawk preferentially predates upon this caecilian when it’s raining. When it’s not raining, snakes are preferred. The study only watched one pair of hawks over two years, so this very small sample size must be noted. Hawks are generally aerial predators, so as noted by the researchers, so it’s fascinating the hawk is able to find the caecilian in the first place! So perhaps these squirmy non-wormys are more common than we think! Even though it’s well known how difficult it is for humans to location, hence the reason why we have limited information on the species. Must be something the Barred Hawk knows, that we don’t.

The IUCN Red List notes that deforestation from the expansion of agriculture is a potential threat to this caecilian, like many species in Ecuador. So when traveling to countries such as Ecuador for birding or naturalistic explorations its important to find a true “Eco” Lodge one that is actively protecting or conserving the local natural ecosystems.

After the encounter we continued down the trail listening and observing many wonderful new bird species, big thanks to Byron!

For a great way to explore the Eastern Andes in Ecuador: Wild Sumaco Eco Lodge

What I read and referred to when researching:

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